Government shutdown scams range from patently false to downright ridiculous

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As if the government shutdown weren’t irritating enough, now we’re seeing the opportunities it’s creating for scam artists. These scams are flying across the internet, and the target is often the elderly.

For instance, a there’s a scam warning you that because of the government shutdown, it’s imperative that you re-enroll in Medicare right away or you won’t be covered. It prompts you to view enrollment options with one click, but don’t do it, it’s a scam.

Here are the facts: the Medicare open-enrollment period lasts until December 7th and that isn’t changing because of the shutdown.

While some scams are scary others are just plain ridiculous. There is one that warns people about Mount Rushmore being closed because of the government shutdown. The kicker is that it actually wants us to believe helicopters have been ordered to cover the mountain monument with what must be one incredibly large sheet.

The shutdown did cause the park to temporarily close, but the monument was never covered up. Thanks to state and private funds, the park is now scheduled to reopen.

Then there’s a particularly crafty one featuring a copy of a receipt from the sporting goods store, Cabela’s, that’s circulating on the internet. Notice how the receipt includes a medical excise tax?

The sender of this e-mail warns us that the Obamacare tax applies to many sporting goods items and that Cabela’s has chosen to make the public aware of it by singling out the tax on each receipt.

First of all, there is no medical excise tax on retail goods. But here’s where the story gets strange. The featured receipt is apparently real, not photo shopped.

According to an article in the Omaha World Herald, Nebraska-based Cabela’s blamed a computer glitch for adding the bogus tax to purchases made last January and has since issued a refund. While Cabela’s may have put this behind them, the hoax is still running amok on the internet.

Finally, there’s the fake Amber Alert shutdown. Even news media outlets were initially reporting that the government shutdown had shut down the Amber Alert system because the Department of Justice’s Web site was temporarily down.

However, Amber Alerts were never jeopardized; Amber Alerts are issued locally. Additionally, the National Center for Exploited and Missing Children tracks them nationally. That site has never been shut down.

If you ever get an e-mail that you think is probably a scam, there are some good sites that can help you check them out. The best is Snopes, which is devoted to uncovering scams and stopping them in their tracks.

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